Criminal Justice
 

Civil Service staff urges 20 percent jump in cop pay — but what about pensions?

After seven years without an across-the-board raise, New Orleans police officers should be accorded a 20 percent pay hike phased in over three years, according to a staff recommendation to the Civil Service Department.

But New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux sees a major flaw in the staff analysis — a failure to factor in pension costs.

The Department’s report, seven months in the making, responds to a February request by the Police Association of New Orleans. The association claimed that with pay schedules frozen since 2007, morale is way down, and the NOPD is losing officers to other police departments.

The staff report has been submitted to the full commission. Both the Civil Service Commission and the City Council must approve changes in the police pay plan.

The Civil Service Department staff came up with six options for officers’ salary increases. They range from bringing salaries into line with regional minimums to immediate pay increases of 10, 20 or 30 percent. Another option was to go to 30 percent, but phase it in over five years.

The staff’s recommendation — the 20 percent increase over three years — would entail an immediate 10 percent hike followed by 5 percent increases in the second and third years.

The report breaks down each option, detailing salary increases by officer classification, but does not include overall costs to the city. Personnel Director Lisa Hudson said it would be up to the City Council and mayor’s office to calculate the cost.

As of May 3, there were about 1,150 officers in the 10 pay classifications that would get raises, ranging from recruits to majors, according to information released by the Civil Service Department. A 20 percent increase in salary could cost the city $10 million a year.

The Landrieu administration did not respond to requests for comment on the proposed raises.

The survey found that regional minimum salaries were significantly higher than the current NOPD salaries — a point that the Police Association of New Orleans argued when filing its raise request in February.

Bringing salaries into line with regional minimums would increase police recruit pay by 7.5 percent, while sergeants’ would get a 26.25 percent bump and majors an additional 31.5 percent.

Police recruits in New Orleans now make $34,397 while the regional minimum stands at $37,908, according to the Civil Service Department. That’s based on pay in cities including Baton Rouge, Slidell, Kenner, Dallas, Atlanta, St. Louis and Nashville. Officers classified as “Police Officer I,” the entry level position, take in $36,570; the regional minimum is $42,579.

Inspector General Quatrevaux said the staff report is flawed because it looks only at starting salaries, ignoring the cost of pension funding.

Retirement contributions, which are set by the state and paid by the city, currently stand at 31 percent of an officer’s salary. That’s money the city must come up with in addition to officers’ pay.

“How can you make an intelligent assessment if you’re ignoring 31 percent of the cost?” Quatrevaux said. “If they fail to look into retirement contributions, they’re very likely going to get the wrong answer.”

“I will certainly oppose any pay raise based on this analysis,” Quatrevaux added. “It’s such surface treatment of an important subject, it’s beyond belief.”

In 2014, the city budgeted $21.8 million for the state’s police pension fund. That means the recommended raise would cost the city another $3.3 million annually by the third year.

The city is facing a number of big bills in coming years to reform the jail and Police Department and to shore up the its firefighters’ pension fund. The city has budgeted money to pay for the Police Department expenses, but not the others.

Police Association president Mike Glasser said that while any raise will help, it remains to be seen whether the recommended 20 percent pay hike over three years will be enough to stem the tide of officer attrition.

Glasser said take-home pay for NOPD officers has been hit hard since the city, and now the courts, have taken charge of administering off-duty work by uniformed police officers hired by private employers. For decades, the off-duty assignments, called “details,” provided a lucrative addition to base salaries.

“We probably could have gone a little longer without a raise,” Glasser said, “if the details hadn’t been crippled the way they have been.”

The city acknowledged earlier this year that the detail work has shrunk by 50 percent or more since 2011, when scandal and a U.S. Department of Justice report led then-NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas to call for centralized coordination of a system that the DOJ deemed flagrantly corrupt.

The new, city-run arrangement is now mandated under a federal consent decree that Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Attorney General Eric Holder signed in 2012. The police associations unsuccessfully sued in an effort to undo the changes.

Reporter Charles Maldonado contributed to this story.

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  • nickelndime

    20 percent jump in cop pay is way too much to pay for pencils without erasers! The only way I will even consider that figure is if they do their job WITHOUT GUNS!

  • FQ Resident

    Good article. NOPD Officers clearly need a pay raise. We are losing way too many officers going to higher paid jobs. We are 500 or more below the required strength and crime is up in every category with the possible exception of murder. I can’t find the Civil Service Commission report – is their a link to that somewhere?

  • Yes, it’s in the story here: The Civil Service Department staff came up with six options for officers’ salary increases.

    I forgot to make the document public, but it’s public now.

  • nickelndime

    And the expensive charter school boards, CFOs, etc. cry and wring their hands over the cost of TRSL (teacher pensions)!! O HELL NO!

  • nickelndime

    The article is good. The proposal is bad. The FQ, and a few other areas in this gawd4saken city, may get cordial treatment, but I can assure you that is not standard NOPD practice in the rest of this city. If the cops don’t like it here, go elsewhere!

  • FQ Resident

    I respectfully disagree – for the most part we are getting what we pay for. If we paid more to maintain and attract experienced officers the moral would improve and the service would be better. I don’t think the 8th District that contains the French Quarter is any different than all the other Districts – everyone of the Districts is understaffed and overworked.

  • nickelndime

    It has been said that “a community gets the kind of police it deserves.” I respect FQ Resident’s right to disagree. I think the FQ community is getting its money worth, but the rest of us in the other communities in the city are not. How about the FQ residents come into my community and get an eyeful of what we are getting for our money from NOPD “cops.”

  • nickelndime

    Are all of the off-duty (details) by uniformed police being reported – even the ones being paid in cash?

  • nickelndime

    Saulney’s suspension comes one day after NOPD announced that 15-year veteran Officer Jayson Germann was fired after police said he violated department rules for off-duty paid details (nola.com 09/24/2014). DO YOU THINK FOR ONE MOMENT THAT THIS COP IS THE ONLY ONE WHO IS DOING THIS?

  • Jerry Davis

    The Inspector General’s objections reflect a lack of basic understanding of the role of the city’s compensation analysts. Police retirement benefits, and any related changes thereto, are granted, withheld, amended and managed by State officials and legislators, completely beyond the control of New Orleans Civil Service. The Commission staff, and the City Council, can only affect base pay.
    While I don’t believe that more pay will result in more officers on the street (this problem is decades old and getting worse, because the mayoral administrations past and especially present, choose to remain ignorant of the effects of capricious if not entirely incompetent management), pay increases for the current officers are warranted. So too are increases for the clerks, first-line supervisors and support personnel who are the truly essential employees who collect taxes, process payrolls and perform the hundreds of other important work of maintaining city services.

  • nickelndime

    It’s Friday, late afternoon (September 26), Elysian Fields Avenue, by the cemetery across from Brother Martin High School. Brother Martin has one of those late school zones that ends at 4:45 PM. Five vehicles pulled over, two cop cars and two officers writing out tickets. What is wrong with this picture? And don’t dare say, “Speeding in a school zone.” O HELL NO! Rampant crime a problem?! Well, as usual these officers (like the rest of them) focus on drivers. THEY NEED PENCILS WITHOUT ERASERS. Take the damn guns away from them. They already have bad attitudes and I don’t want to pay them more money for sloppy work AND I sure as hell don’t want to pay for MORE OF THEM. And no, I didn’t get a ticket.

  • Sam

    While I understand completely the hesitancy to back pay raises for incompetent officers, one of the reasons for pay increases is that it lures better cops to the NOPD and helps keep some of the better ones who would leave because of the poor pay. In order to get good cops, you have to pay for them.

  • nickelndime

    The system is corrupt. Mitch, Mary, and the new police chief “boss” (that’s like The Who lyric, “Meet the new boss. He’s just like the old boss.”) are all standing on the church steps lauding the $1.876 million grant from the DOJ for the COPS program. You would not believe how this is going to play out – or maybe you would! I want my damn money back – my community gets rotten treatment from NOPD. I will be nice and cordial to other human beings, whether or not they are in uniform, but when I see those cop cars and those cops, it sets off some kind of alarm in me. I don’t want more of them. I don’t want to pay more for more of them.